When you're on the road, things that look familiar can be a disproportionate source of calm and comfort. Chains like Starbucks have capitalized on this sentiment by making every location feel almost exactly alike, encouraging a nation of laptop-toting business travelers and freelancers to make themselves at home.
Breather thinks those wanderers deserve an upgrade. The company allows you to book private home-office-like rooms for short time periods. The service is currently available in Montreal (where the company is based), San Francisco, Ottawa, New York City, and Boston.
Breather CEO Julien Smith, an author, came up with the idea when he was traveling for work. After he wrote "Trust Agents," in 2010 he frequently circled the globe for speaking engagements.
"I would find myself in cities, in a lot of circumstances, where I didn't know a lot of what was around me, and I just wanted--I don't want to say a sense of safety--but more like a sense of just feeling comfortable or feeling at home," he says. "So I would end up at Starbucks."
Howard Schultz, the coffee chain's founder and CEO, has talked often about how he envisioned his chain's locations as a "third place" that's neither home nor work. But anyone who is noise-sensitive and easily distracted can tell you that bustling coffee shops aren't always ideal environments for doing work. So Breather was created to give professionals an airy, silent, (and really nice-smelling, this reporter can attest) wifi-equipped space to be productive.
Currently, the company owns most of its spaces, which helps Breather to ensure that all rooms share these characteristics. The company has employees in every market who scout for new space. Smith says that going forward, he hopes Breather will own a smaller portion of the rooms, as more outside parties put their spare space on the platform.
But Smith says the service wasn't created with only business travelers in mind. The rooms are for local workers, too.
"You may have an office, and it may have everything you want," Smith says. "Unfortunately, you don't need to be productive just in one place. You need to be productive everywhere."
That is why the company aims to scatter as many single rooms in different locations throughout a city as it can. New York, for instance, has 38 separate locations -- which range from $15-$75 per hour -- and San Francisco has 16--which cost $25 per hour. For comparison, a workspace in San Francisco offered by competitor ShareDesk goes for about $25 per day, though these space aren't private.
Smith also expects his customers to get creative with the way they use the space.
"We have this florist in Manhattan that just books the Breather locations in order to be able to put flowers in them for the whole neighborhood's deliveries," he says. "For them, they need a warehouse, but they're not going to be able to get a warehouse part time."
In other cases, the space can serve as a yoga or meditation room. The San Francisco room I called Smith from had a yoga mat and a spectacular view of the city.
Customers primarily wind up using the rooms for more predictable but necessary work tasks like phone calls and meetings, Smith says.
He wouldn't say how many people currently use the service. The company, which launched in 2013, is nearing 100 spaces total in all markets. The company has raised $7.5 million in venture capital.
The team is talking about amenities it can add in the future, like a coffee machine. But don't hold your breath for a mini bar. That would require getting a liquor license for every location, Smith says.
What do you think? Would you ever use a service like Breather? Tell us in the comments below.